The green industry has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. With competition rising and more educated consumers, landscape companies have become more sophisticated. Today's business environment requires planning, coordination, and getting all the details right. This more modern approach to the business means winter is no longer a time of dormancy.

Let’s look at six things the green industry should focus on during the winter.

Winter Yard Prep

Before you turn off the lights this season, you should have some work planned to help your clients get winter ready. The “fall cleanup” is a staple of the profitable maintenance program. This includes pruning, removing dead growth, draining sprinklers, and blowing out irrigation systems. For turf and groundcover, there’s aerating, fertilizing, and planting spring bulbs. And for roof gardens or those in very northerly latitudes, it may be necessary to wrap your trees to prevent burn and breakage from snow.

In the winter, dormant pruning should be a priority for your client’s yards. It’s the ideal time to tackle almost every plant that will go dormant in the winter.

Be sure to educate and inform your customers on the necessary prep for their yards and plants so that spring yields the best results.

Evaluating the Year and Planning for the Next

During the winter, lawn care companies should conduct a thorough evaluation of the past year. This includes identifying the positives and negatives of performance and checking where you are on key performance indicators (KPIs) and goals.

Assess which goals and KPIs you hit, and which ones you missed. You may also need to adjust your KPIs, depending on your goals for 2019. Maybe it’s time to introduce a new service or product, like pre-emergent herbicides or fall fertilizer programs.

Using the data from the previous year, you can then start the budgeting and planning for the next 12 months. During this process, you should examine equipment and supply needs, think about how you source product, and determine if there’s a better way to get access to more options and possibly lower costs.

(We recommend considering a landscape supply online marketplace.)

Next, you should look at your personnel and determine if you need to expand or cut back. Based on the performance of personnel, you may need to revise standard operating procedures. In the current lean labor market, it’s critical to have a reliable team.

Addressing Equipment—Buy, Repair, and Sell

After your equipment evaluation, it’s time to determine what you need to buy, repair, or sell. If you need additional equipment, you should further discern if you should buy equipment new or used. There are pros and cons for each, so do a careful analysis before you make the decision.

If repairs need to be made, get a full list of what needs to be done and determine if equipment can be fixed in-house or if you need to take it to a mechanic. If you need to take it to a shop, be sure to have it repaired and have any maintenance work performed at the same time.

At the end of this evaluation, you should be confident that your equipment is safe, ready to go, and has a maintenance schedule for the next year.

Keep in Touch with Customers

After you’ve completed winter prep for your customers, be sure to stay in touch with them so they don’t forget you. This could mean something as simple as sending them a holiday card, or once the new year hits mailing them a flyer with an offer to schedule early and receive a discount.

Winter can be a good time to freshen up the skills of your workers with new training. It can also be a time to travel to trade shows and check on the upcoming trends in landscaping. You can then take those ideas to your customers. Taking the time to explore new softwares, apps, and digital services in the winter can help you increase efficiency in spring.

Finding Opportunities for Expansion and Growth

When looking at your budget for 2019, you will want to maximize the resources you have and see where opportunities are to reduce costs and optimize profits. This is a time when you’ll also be forecasting. What will the next year bring? How will you expand your business?

Expanding your business can mean either the acquisition of new customers or doing more for your existing customers. You should look at both as an opportunity. This means you’ll need to have a strategy behind finding new customers and upselling your current ones.

This may require launching some online marketing efforts. It may be a good time to refresh your website, create email marketing campaigns, and develop a social media marketing strategy for the next year. Jobsite photos from the previous season are incredibly powerful for marketing. Make sure you share them on your website and social media feeds!

Winter time for landscape firms isn't the normal busy. It's a different kind of busy, one full of planning and evaluation. All these things are critical to your company moving forward and growing in 2019. When you are properly prepared, you'll be able to address anything that may come your way.

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